The win over East Carolina was an odd game considering the lack of practices beforehand and the way the game itself played out.
“Well it was an unusual game. I’d agree with that wholeheartedly and the paper said it felt like a loss. I never thought it felt like a loss. Coach [Dean] Smith was really good. Coach Smith said, ‘I can live if we play well. I can live whether we win or lose.’ I said, ‘Not me. I want to win the freaking game.’ Coach was so much better about it than I was. I didn’t feel like it was a loss. I didn’t feel like we played as well as we wanted to play and that we didn’t finish the game out the way we wanted to finish it out, but we’ve had two good practices since then.
“We got more accomplished [on Sunday]. In fact, Sunday was supposed to be a day off and I told them that it’s one prerogative of the head coach that he can change his mind and so we did. We practice Sunday and we were there a good while and we got a lot of work done. We watched a lot of tape. We watched tape for almost a full hour and then we were on the court for almost three hours so we got after it a little bit. Everybody was huffing and puffing and dying and nobody was flopping around like a dead fish or anything so I thought we were okay. Then we came back today and we got some things accomplished then, because we did not have everybody at practice the entire week last week. We only had two practices and we had guys going in and out.
“I didn’t like the way we finished the game. Didn’t like some of the things that we did, but there were some points during the game that I did like and for us to be able to do those kinds of things and not do what we needed to do on the backboards. No offensive rebounds for our big guys is something that bothered me. Coach Smith always said the underdog will always make every shot down the stretch because there is no pressure on them and then I think you got to congratulate Jeff [Lebo] and his club for continuing the play and we’ve got to get better.”
On Dexter Strickland and J.P. Tokoto’s play against East Carolina:
“Both those guys did do well. I’m not telling you anything I didn’t tell them. Dexter is a point guard and Marcus [Paige] is a point guard and you have two point guards that turn around and turn the ball over dribbling it down the court. I told them I've got to find somebody else to play the point guard if you can’t dribble the basketball. Both those turnovers were two of our last four possessions and that’s what made the game what it was. If we get a shot clock violation on both of those instead of it being a six-point game, it’s a 12-point game and everybody would feel differently at the end. Dexter did some really good things. We didn’t get good defensive play from our point guards, which was disturbing for me. From either one of them, but Dexter did do some good things. 10 assists and made some shots.
“J.P. was 5-for-5 and did make a big time defensive play for us and I think probably the last two weeks have been the best two weeks that he’s had since he’s gotten here and I’ll tell you another thing. P.J. Hairston, and I stay on his case really hard, but he’s done some better things as we’ve gone down the last couple of weeks as well.”
How do you think your team handled the full court press?
“We made one turnover. We laid it up on the other end. We just looked sloppy getting it there, but then you also had one where Leslie [McDonald] gets a charging foul called when it was two on one and all he had to do was just clearly pass the ball and then we had another one where we took a bad shot. Leslie stayed behind the three-point line, we throw it to Leslie and he passes it to Reggie [Bullock] and Reggie shoots it and you don’t need to take three point shots against a team that is pressing you. You want to attack the basket, but all in all we had tremendous number of defensive errors. We didn’t get rebounding from our big guys on the frontline particularly on the offensive backboards and our point guards didn’t do a real good job defensively. Other than that, ‘The movie was fine, Mrs. Lincoln,’ I guess you could say.”
Could games against East Carolina become a more common occurrence in the future?
“Who knows who is going to call next? That’s what it boils down to. When I was here as an assistant, Coach Smith had a policy to never play anyone in the state that you didn’t have to play and the reason is because you can’t play everybody and so I came back and I said I’m not going to do that, but I’m not going to play anybody on the read unless they’re opening a new building or something like that, that I can help, and then I would consider doing it. It’s sort of opened up the floodgates, but we’ve played UNC-Asheville four or five times since I’ve been back. We’ve played Davidson a couple of times and there is probably a chance that I’ll end up playing Wilmington since Buzz Peterson is down there. We played Appalachian State. We’re going to play Greensboro with Wes Miller up there so it just depends on what happens in the schedule and then if I were to say we’re going to do that, then tomorrow we could be in a different conference so I wouldn’t know what the crap I’m talking about.
“We’re sitting here right now and the Big East’s got seven schools leaving and now all of a sudden people are saying that we could possibly have Notre Dame and Louisville in our schedule next year. Who knows so I’m just going to go along with the flow for a while to see if things settle down and we know what a lot of our schedule is going to be next year. There is no question about that. We have Texas coming back here. I think we start Kentucky again next year. We’re playing in the Hall of Fame Classic. We know a lot of things about our schedule, but there is two or three other games that have to be decided.”
Jim Boeheim won his 900th game tonight. You currently have 683 wins. Do you see 900 in your future?
“No, no, no. That’d be a long time. Coach Smith, when we got to 600, said ‘You need to do this because I’ve figured it out that you can get to 1000’ and I said, ‘Coach, I don’t know about that. That’s a long time.’ But I really do. I hope I can go, and I’ve said this consistently, 6-10 more years. As long as I’m healthy and as long as I’m feeling like I can go out and do that and I hog tie Wanda to get her to go to the games I think I’ll be alright.”
Do you have expectations of where you want your team to be at certain points of the season?
“I don’t have that ,and to be honest with you, any coach that says that I don’t believe they know what the dickens they’re talking about either. You’re working with 18-19-20-year olds. What you want to do is you want to go in and see a little improvement everyday. So 11 games into the season or 17 games into the season I’m supposed to see us average 2.1 more points per game and we’re supposed to shoot 3.1 higher percentage and have two fewer turnovers? That’s too complicated. I get in there and I work my butt off everyday and say lets get better and I gave this to Joel [James] and I really believe it with him, but some other people too, that Rome was not built in a day, but they worked on the sucker everyday and that’s the way we’ve got to look at our team."
What can Joel James do to earn more playing time and how has he progressed so far?
“A couple things. Defensively, he’s got to be able to slide his feet and get out on the court a little bit more, because everybody is going to try to do that. He’s got to get involved when his guys goes out and put a little pressure on the ball so he can’t be like a quarterback standing back there with no pressure on him. Got to run a little bit better. Got to make a quicker move in the post. He’s a wonderful kid and I cannot help but smile and you’ve heard me say this about several of our kids, but Joel James is one of those guys for the rest of my life when somebody mentions his name I will smile and that’s a pretty doggone good thing for people to feel about you, but we’ve got Joel who is going to get better.
“We have Brice [Johnson] who is going to get better. We have James Michael [McAdoo] that needs some time out there. We have Desmond [Hubert] who is working really hard and all those kids are going to get some time and then when somebody steps up and says ‘I love you to death, but I’m beating you today’ then it’s going to be shared time. I was an assistant here when Michael [Jordan] would go in the locker room and say ‘okay I’m going to dunk on you today’ and he said, ‘I’m going to dunk on you twice today’ and he’d go out and do that. Somebody in that group has to really step up if they want to get the majority of the time and if they don’t step up then we’re going to keep sharing the time with it and, to me, I really don’t care who it is. I just need somebody that has a North Carolina jersey on that is going to step up and do a good job.”
Is Dexter Strickland’s strong play and decision making recently earning him more time at point guard?
“Well it did one game because we didn’t have Marcus, there is no question there, and Saturday in the game at one point I took Marcus out and put Dexter at the point when it wasn’t just a situation where I wanted to rest Marcus at that point. It’s hard, I’m telling you. It’s hard to be a point guard when you’ve never played the point guard your entire life and all of a sudden you get in college and you’re freshman year you’re allowed to play point guard some and you really struggle and then your sophomore year you play the point guard a little bit and it’s difficult and then your junior year you play the point guard a little early and then you tear your ACL and then all of sudden now you’re doing it again. You look at Dexter’s assist to error ratio for those first three years and they were not very good at all and you look at his assist to error ratio for this year and it is fantastic. He’s 50 assists and 16 turnovers and so in our situation it is something that has given Dexter a little bit more confidence out there. Good play gives you a little more confidence and confidence gives you a little more good play and hopefully he’ll do it when we get down in the crunch time of those last minute games when the game is going to be decided in the last three or four minutes.”
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